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DESCRIPTIONA BOOK OF GOLDEN DEEDSBYCHARLOTTE M YONGE
A BOOK OF GOLDEN DEEDSBY
CHARLOTTE M YONGE
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A BOOK OFGOLDEN
CHARLOTTE M YONGE
AS THE MOST striking lines of poetry are the most hackneyed,
because they have grown to be the common inheritance of
all the world, so many of the most noble deeds that earth
can show have become the best known, and enjoyed their
full meed of fame. Therefore it may be feared that many of
the events here detailed, or alluded to, may seem trite to
those in search of novelty; but it is not for such that the
collection has been made. It is rather intended as a treasury
for young people, where they may find minuter particulars
than their abridged histories usually afford of the soul-stir-
ring deeds that give life and glory to the record of events;
and where also other like actions, out of their ordinary course
of reading, may be placed before them, in the trust that ex-
ample may inspire the spirit of heroism and self-devotion. For
surely it must be a wholesome contemplation to look on ac-
tions, the very essence of which is such entire absorption in
others that self is forgotten; the object of which is not to win
promotion, wealth, or success, but simple duty, mercy, and
loving-kindness. These are the actions wrought, hoping for
nothing again, but which most surely have their reward.
The authorities have not been given, as for the most [Page]
part the narratives lie on the surface of history. For the de-
scription of the Coliseum, I have, however, been indebted to
the Abb Gerbets Rome Chrtienne; for the Housewives of
Lowenburg, and St. Stephens Crown, to Freytags Sketches
of German Life; and for the story of George the Triller, to
Mr. Mayhews Germany. The Escape of Attalus is narrated
4A Book of Golden Deeds
(from Gregory of Tours) in Thierrys Lettres sur lHistoire
de France; the Russian officers adventures, and those of
Prascovia Lopouloff true Elisabeth of Siberia, are from M. le
Maistre; the shipwrecks chiefly from Gillys Shipwrecks of
the British Navy; the Jersey Powder Magazine from the
Annual Registrer, and that at Ciudad Rodrigo, from the tra-
ditions of the 52nd Regiment.
There is a cloud of doubt resting on a few of the tales, which
it may be honest to mention, though they were far too beauti-
ful not to tell. These are the details of the Gallic occupation of
Rome, the Legend of St. Genevieve, the Letter of Gertrude
von der Wart, the stories of the Keys of Calais, of the Dragon
of Rhodes, and we fear we must add, both Nelsons plan of the
Battle of the Nile, and likewise the exact form of the heroism
of young Casabianca, of which no two accounts agree. But it
was not possible to give up such stories as these, and the thread
of truth there must be in them has developed into such a beau-
tiful tissue, that even if unsubstantial when tested, it is surely
delightful to contemplate.
Some stories have been passed over as too devoid of foun-
dation, in especial that of young Henri, Duke of Nemours,
who, at ten years old, was said to have been hung up with his
little brother of eight in one of Louis XIs cages at Loches,
with orders that two of the childrens teeth should daily be
pulled out and brought to the king. The elder child was said
to have insisted on giving the whole supply of teeth, so as to
save his brother; but though they were certainly imprisoned
after their fathers execution, they were released after Louiss
death in a condition which disproves this atrocity.
The Indian mutiny might likewise have supplied glorious
instances of Christian self-devotion, but want of materials
has compelled us to stop short of recording those noble deeds
by which delicate women and light-hearted young soldiers
showed, that in the hour of need there was not wanting to
them the highest and deepest spirit of self-sacrifice.
At some risk of prolixity, enough of the surrounding events
has in general been given to make the situation comprehen-
sible, even without knowledge of the general history. This
has been done in the hope that these extracts may serve as a
mothers storehouse for reading aloud to her boys, or that
they may be found useful for short readings to the intelligent,
though uneducated classes.
NONONONONOVEMBER 17, 1864.VEMBER 17, 1864.VEMBER 17, 1864.VEMBER 17, 1864.VEMBER 17, 1864.
WHAWHAWHAWHAWHAT IS A GOLDEN DEED?T IS A GOLDEN DEED?T IS A GOLDEN DEED?T IS A GOLDEN DEED?T IS A GOLDEN DEED?
WE ALL of us enjoy a story of battle and adventure. Some of
us delight in the anxiety and excitement with which we watch
the various strange predicaments, hairbreadth escapes, and
ingenious contrivances that are presented to us; and the mere
imaginary dread of the dangers thus depicted, stirs our feel-
ings and makes us feel eager and full of suspense.
This taste, though it is the first step above the dullness that
cannot be interested in anything beyond its own immediate
world, nor care for what it neither sees, touches, tastes, nor
puts to any present use, is still the lowest form that such a
liking can take. It may be no better than a love of reading
about murders in the newspaper, just for the sake of a sort of
startled sensation; and it is a taste that becomes unwhole-
some when it absolutely delights in dwelling on horrors and
cruelties for their own sake; or upon shifty, cunning, dis-
honest stratagems and devices. To learn to take interest in
what is evil is always mischievous.
But there is an element in many of such scenes of woe and
violence that may well account for our interest in them. It is
that which makes the eye gleam and the heart throb, and
bears us through the details of suffering, bloodshed, and even
barbarityfeeling our spirits moved and elevated by con-
templating the courage and endurance that they have called
forth. Nay, such is the charm of brilliant valor, that we often
are tempted to forget the injustice of the cause that may have
called forth the actions that delight us. And this enthusiasm
is often united with the utmost tenderness of heart, the very
appreciation of suffering only quickening the sense of the
heroism that risked the utmost, till the young and ardent
learn absolutely to look upon danger as an occasion for evinc-
ing the highest qualities.
O Life, without thy chequerd scene Of right and wrong,
of weal and woe, Success and failure, could a ground For
magnanimity be found?
The true cause of such enjoyment is perhaps an inherent
consciousness that there is nothing so noble as forgetfulness
of self. Therefore it is that we are struck by hearing of the
6A Book of Golden Deeds
exposure of life and limb to the utmost peril, in oblivion, or
recklessness of personal safety, in comparison with a higher
That object is sometimes unworthy. In the lowest form of
courage it is only avoidance of disgrace; but even fear of shame
is better than mere love of bodily ease, and from that lowest
motive the scale rises to the most noble and precious actions
of which human nature is capablethe truly golden and
priceless deeds that are the jewels of history, the salt of life.
And it is a chain of Golden Deeds that we seek to lay be-
fore our readers; but, ere entering upon them, perhaps we
had better clearly understand what it is that to our mind
constitutes a Golden Deed.
It is not mere hardihood. There was plenty of hardihood
in Pizarro when he led his men through terrible hardships
to attack the empire of Peru, but he was actuated by mere
greediness for gain, and all the perils he so resolutely en-
dured could not make his courage admirable. It was noth-
ing but insensibility to danger, when set against the wealth
and power that he coveted, and to which he sacrificed thou-
sands of helpless Peruvians. Daring for the sake of plunder
has been found in every robber, every pirate, and too often
in all the lower grade of warriors, fro